“I’m not artistic”, “I can’t draw, paint, basket-weave, fill-in-the-blank-with-traditionally-creative-skill.” Do these phrases sound familiar? Perhaps they’ve come from the mouths of family members, or perhaps co-workers or friends, when you share your love of creativity. And, let’s be honest, there were probably a handful of times when you’ve said that to yourself, perhaps when you’re blocked, stuck in a creative slump. Sometimes it feels like creativity is this reclusive beast that we must coax out of hiding. And for many, this makes sense. If the world was made by sheer accident, a combination of molecules colliding and exploding, creativity does seem rather extravagant, unnecessary, and certainly not the mindset we should naturally live in. What need would we have for art if the world were a purely utilitarian kind of place? To create would be an addition to the natural order, a non-essential. But you know that isn’t true. Because the original intent of the world was creation.
The first words in the Bible are, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” That is how we are first introduced to God, before Lord, Almighty, Father. Before we knew Him in those ways, we knew Him as Artist. The very world we live in is a product of the Artist, bearing His signature. And twenty-seven verses later, we read, “So God created mankind in His image…” Thus, we are also art made by the Artist. And after He created us, He gave this command: “Be fruitful and increase in number…” To bear fruit and to multiply, yes applies to child bearing, but is that not also a general term for creation itself? Really, to create is to multiply oneself, so that reflections of you can be found apart from you in what you made. Which is exactly what God did as the original Artist; He made creation as a reflection of Himself, different parts of Him, humanity being the pinnacle in that we bear the image of God. And in bearing the image of the great Artist Himself, we are reproductions of Him, mirroring facets of Him.
One such facet is creativity. God commanded the first man and woman to create, to make new things that would bear their image. Our origin is a creative one, and since that is where we came from, that is what we are called to do. You are created by the Creator to create. Creativity isn’t something we do; it is who we are. But why create? Why make? Essentially, what’s the point?
As we look back on our origin story, and the origin of creativity, we notice that after God creates each part of creation, He declares that what He made was “good,” and that creating humanity was “very good.” God, in His goodness, made good things. And these good things, in turn, served as indicators of a good Artist, as they were essentially reproductions of Him. And these good creations were to create good things of their own.
“Beauty brings copies of itself into being. It makes us draw it, take photos of it, or describe it to other people. Sometimes it gives rise to exact replication and other times to resemblances and still other times to things who connection to the original site of inspiration is unrecognizable,” said Elaine Scarry, in her novel On Beauty and Being Just. God, as beautiful, made beautiful things from the formless chaos of the uncreated universe. We, as the beautiful creation of God, the ultimate beauty, are not only called to make more beauty - because to say ‘called’ alone would indicate simply duty - but we are also compelled. Because, as you know, when something is beautiful, it generates reproduction; we long to recreate what is beautiful. And when a person gazes upon something beautiful, they too, long to become beautiful themselves. Beauty doesn’t just beg to be looked at; it causes the viewer to become a participant and be transformed themself. What do we call a devotee to beauty who longs to become beautiful? A disciple.
All of creation, all things that have been multiplied in beauty, point back to the original Creator and Beautiful One. When we take a photo, when we craft objects made of metal, wood or cloth, when we create images with our words, graphite or paint, we are replicating His beauty and sharing it with the world, a world in chaos that longs for beautiful things. And what happens when we declare the beauty of God to the world? That’s called worship. We were created to create beauty so people can gaze upon it, so people can be moved to partake and transform, becoming a disciple, as they as they see the face of God looking back at them.
Creation is not an extravagant human addition to a pointless, utilitarian world; it has no human origin at all. It was the first move of God, out of His love, to multiply, to replicate and it is in our life-blood to do the same.